"When you were born you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice." ~ Cherokee

The Political Paradigm Shift

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par·a·digm shift:  An important change that happens when a new and different way replaces the usual way of thinking about or doing something.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Merriam Webster 

Our Political Reality 

A few weeks ago I was conversing with a high school youth I am mentoring who is already an advanced public policy student. He remarked that we are in a paradigm shift in politics. He pointed out that most people are hanging on to political labels and already obsolete parties, trading insults about competing ideologies that are now irrelevant. Right vs. Left. Conservative vs. Liberal. Republican vs. Democrat. He said that if anything became clear in this last political election, most of the population is fed up with the establishment.

Change is the Only Constant in Life

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Change is the only constant in life.” And yet we seem hardwired to resist change. We fight it, we deny it, and we argue about it. All the while, the world changes whether we like it or not.

With change comes fear. Is different going to be better?  Will it benefit me? Where will I fit in? Of course, we can adapt. But only if we are willing. We can’t look to the past to create the future.  Of course, we can learn from the past; however, we create the future from possibility, not history.

Every president in my adult life has participated in a political system that panders to what people want to hear while partnering with special interests fueled by money and power.  The same is true for both major political parties. Yet they speak their policy positions as if they benefit the average person. The political system and policies on the left or right, as we know them, have very little to do with representing the vast majority of our citizens.

79% are Still Waiting

According to the Pew Research Center, since 1983, upper-income families’ wealth doubled to an average $650,074. Middle-income families’ wealth stayed the same at an average of $98,000. No increase. In 33 years. Middle-income families represent 50% of the population. Lower-income families represent 29% of the population. That is 79% of all Americans who continue to slide downward over the last four decades. No wonder people are fed up.

A Princeton Study published in 2014 found that the majority of the American public has a “minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” The study shows that the U.S. is no longer a democracy but an oligarchy.

The last election was the turning point.  The best proof that the current two-party system is dead is that it produced the two major candidates it did out of 318 million people. So most people chose based on, “I don’t want this, so I am voting for that.”

So we are left with that – and even before the next administration begins, we hear of promises that will not be kept by the next president and proposed policies that are certain to impact vulnerable further negatively, retired and working-class Americans. And one inane tweet after another fuels a burning fire that is raging in a divided America, is energizing lunatic fringe groups and alarming global leaders.

The Political System has Failed

We can’t bring prosperity to the middle class with policies that never favored them. It is not going to trickle down this time, either. We can’t lift up the lower class by continuing to do more of the same.  And make no mistake that if the election turned out differently, at best, it would have been more of the same. Her lofty promises would not be kept either and those policies would have done nothing for middle or lower-income Americans. How long can we go down the same two political roads and not see that reality? Neither party represents nearly all of the country.

And yet we still argue Republican vs. Democrat. Even though neither has helped nearly 80% of our society for the last 33 years. We point fingers at each other and hurl insults of stupid, lazy, and greedy. My work with Dreams for Kids for three decades has proven to me that most people don’t want a handout; they want a hand-up. They want opportunity. The majority of wealthy Americans are not greedy. Most of them contribute towards the greater good and are entitled to the wealth they have earned. Rural Americans deserve better than the same old lies. The jobs are not coming back. We need to create new ones. We need to revitalize communities and industry through innovation and education.

Our government has failed us. Our elected officials have failed us. And now we insist on failing ourselves and our better nature.

What now?

Great leaders inspire solutions and bring people together. They speak honestly and present the hard truths. A great government is for the people, by the people. We don’t have either right now.

If we continue to blame ourselves, vote the same way, and debate the same old arguments, we will get the same results. And we can’t take much more. We need to recognize the paradigm shift. It is staring us right in the face. It has already occurred. Let’s stop arguing and insulting each other. Listen first, learn more, and understand our shared humanity and challenges.

Above all, let’s unite behind a new political reality and a new party.